by Dr. Gautam
Ms. Krishna Dutt, an
Anthropologist, worked in Planning Commission in-charge development of
schedule caste and schedule tribe at federal level; presently consultant
of IGNCA and in-charge of ethnographic collections. She has been the
coordinator of IGNCA’s mask collection, talks to Dr. Gautam Chatterjee to
unvail IGNCA’s endeavour to the world of masks.
GC: Ms.Dutt, you being incharge of Mask acquisition
and coordinated with people India and abroad will you kindly tell us
something how it all started and how you have worked out the total
K.D.; The decision to acquire masks was not done in
adhoc manner. IGNCA has engaged in researching fundamental concepts of
Space, Form, Time, Nature, Cosmic Order and Seasons since 1986 and it was
decided to have next series of seminars and exhibitions on Persona (self).
In order to see how man sees himself in Cosmic order that the concrete
manifestation of mask was taken to investigate man’s need to deal with his
G.C. What’s the total number of Masks you have
collected and how much are on display?
K.D.: There are about 600 masks in the collection. Out
of which 392 are on display.
G.C. The masks collected by IGNCA are the same mask
used by those traditional people or those are specially made for IGNCA.
K.D.: Normally the masks traditionally used by people
are not given away. Most masks have been specially made replicas for IGNCA
collection except a set of Purulia Chhau masks which were obtained from a
group of masks dancers of that area.
G.C. Who are the collectors of these masks can you
name few and about those private collections!
K.D.: There are private collection in India and abroad
both in Museums and of individuals.In India I cam across a few persons,
one is in Calcutta and two in Delhi who have been collecting masks through
these have been done haphazardoulsy without any system as to areas from
where collected ,details of character how those are used etc.
G.C. As we are aware some masks are sacred and
parting with them becomes a problem for traditional people? Will you
elaborate some of your experiences?
K.D.: I came across the problem in trying to acquire
Narasimha masks of Bhagwatmela. Since this mask is used and after use put
back in the Shrine/temple the mask makers who are also mask dancers, were
reluctant to prepare Narasimha mask for us. Though one mask maker agreed
to do so, lateron he withdrew his offer because he met with some accident.
He got supersticious and we had to with great difficulty persuade another
artisan to prepare a Narasimha mask for us.
G.C. Those masks which are collected by IGNCA are
made of different materials like wood to paper mache etc. some are very
old and brittle. How you are thinking to store them and what are the
corrective treatment you are providing to upkeep the masks.
K.D.: IGNCA Collection does not have very old masks.
Only Museums abroad have such masks. We have a conservation unit which
looks after each mask to see if wooden masks are infected with insects and
treat them accordingly. Most of the paper-ache have to be protected from
humidity. Therefore silica gel is placed around masks while the wooden
ones have to placed in fumigation chamber required for clearing the
G.C. Its understood these musks will be displayed in
Adi Drishya gallerly, will you spell out such a plan!
K.D.: IGNCA is planning to have a permanent gallery of
masks in the new building coming up on Rajendra Prasad Road. These are not
to be displayed in Adi Drsya gallery which is planned for display of
pre-historic paintings linking rural and tribal contemporary wall/floor